site stats WhizGidget Wonders...
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
The Magical Properties of Comfort Food...

...That's right - food is magical.

We all have our own comfort foods, right? The ones that make us feel better when we're sad or down, the ones that make us content. Some of them relax us or give us strength and renewed purpose when we eat them.

For food to be imbued all these properties, there must be some sort of magic involved because they right any wrongs we may perceive that exist, or they just simply make us feel better when we're ill.

I remember, as a child, going to visit my grandmother in my mom's old Chevy Nova. We'd pass by the food processing plant, where the onions would be peeled and chopped, and couple that strong smell coming through the vents with the heat, and the smell of the vinyl seats in the closed up car, and I'd have a sour stomach almost instantly. And then I'd walk into my grandmother's kitchen, and she'd be simmering tomatoes and basil in salty water, just waiting for us to get there before she added the egg alphabets.

Just the smell alone would make it all better.

That was my grandmother's alphabet soup. Oh man, it was the best thing I ever ate. It always made me feel better - physically and psychologically. If I think hard enough, I can still smell that smell of her soup. You'd think, after all those years of eating it and watching her make it, that I'd have the recipe down cold, right?

I do... but there's something about the taste that isn't quite right - maybe it's the amount of water, maybe it's the fact that I can't find Golden Grain Egg Alphabets anymore. I could never put my finger on it - and I could never perfectly duplicate that taste. I make that soup for my kids, and I come close - they never had it made in Grandma's kitchen - but something still isn't quite right. There was magic in that food - whether it was love or something else isn't relevant.

There was magic in that food, and nothing you can say will convince me otherwise. But that's just one of my comfort foods. I have a laundry list of foods for all sorts of things...

Who can resist the warm and tempting magic of a well prepared lasagna, right? Cheesy and meaty, with the sauce spiced just right and it's not too wet, or too dry - but just perfect. It's a perfect contentment with life sort of food - and it restores that feeling because you have to put yourself in a good solid mood when you're constructing a lasagna. There's love in a lasagna, don't let anyone tell you differently.

Then there's curry or chicken and dumplings - both of those are wonderful foods for when it's raining outside and you need to chase the winter blues away. When finished, you're full, and warm from the inside out.

There's chocolate or some good coffee or tea when you're just a little down, or in need of a small break from the world.

Ice cream is the great equalizer - all tears turn to smiles, no matter the reason for the tears in the first place, when ice cream is present.

At that certain female time of month, nothing beats a good juicy burger and fries for me - for some reason it makes the ache and the irritatability go away. Some tell me that it's the iron in the red meat, and I'd get the same effects from spinach, but I know that isn't true. The smell is different, the taste is different, and the psychological knowledge that I'm consuming a days worth of calories and don't care is very different.

Not everyone admits they have a perfect comfort food either - usually because they don't realize they do until they eat it and feel full and content. And even then they would only realize it's a comfort food if they're tuned into wondering about such things and have an elevated mood from it.

There have been articles written that state that comfort foods relieve anxiety. Well, isn't that the point? Don't we eat some of these foods for comfort (as opposed to people who just eat for comfort) from our fears and anxieties? Many of these foods, unfortunately, are high in sugars and fat (note my ice cream and french fries references above) and can lead to excess belly bulges, which could lead to more anxiety - comfort food could be a never ending cycle of eating if one is not careful or the food is too addictive. But (aside from the fact that food addiction is a whole 'nother topic) aren't comfort foods supposed to be the ones we crave when we're down, when we need that little pick-me-up, when the whole world is against us and a lasagna is the only thing that will make it right?

Of course there are teams of nutritionists, psychologists, and neurologists who continue to tell us that it's the natural reaction of the body and mind to the smell or the taste that causes a hormone to fire off and thus improves the mood of the person eating the food. While I'm sure that part of that is true, I just don't buy it as the sole reason...

...because there's definitely magic in the food.